former deputy premier to appear as investigation continues – Michmutters

former deputy premier to appear as investigation continues

When he appears before the upper house inquiry for the first time today, former deputy premier John Barilaro will be questioned on a lot of the evidence that the parliament has heard so far.

There’s a lot of material to go through – we have heard testimony from eight witnesses during five days of hearings spread over several weeks.

If you need a refresher on the evidence to date, this is what we’ve learned:

Investment NSW boss Amy Brown (first appearance, June 29)
Brown said former Investment NSW deputy secretary Jenny West was “verbally offered the role” on August 12 last year. Then-NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian signed a briefing note on that date noting “a successful candidate … has been identified” for the New York posting. That candidate was West. However, Brown was directed by the government to cease the recruitment due to a change in policy. That instruction was received on about September 27 and Brown said it “would have come through” the office of the responsible minister, which was John Barilaro. Brown said she officially told West on October 1 that her appointment would not proceed.

Former bureaucrat Jenny West (July 11)
West said that Brown told her on October 14 that the role would in fact “be a present for someone.” (Brown later denied this.) West was advised in November that her role as deputy secretary at Investment NSW had been terminated. She received 38 weeks’ pay as a redundancy entitlement.

Former public servant Jenny West at the hearing last month.

Former public servant Jenny West at the hearing last month.Credit:Nick Moir

Investment NSW’s former senior lawyer Chris Carr (July 18)
Carr rejected claims Jenny West was ever formally offered a US trade role as he insisted he only played a “limited” role in giving advice. Carr said Amy Brown or her de ella chief of staff asked him last September to prepare advice on whether the appointment of commissioners could be converted from public service to ministerial decisions-a request of John Barilaro.

John Barilaro’s former senior adviser Joseph Brayford (July 18, transcript only)
Brayford’s evidence indicated that the cabinet proposal to give government ministers the power to appoint trade commissioner roles instead of the public service was fast-tracked in the weeks before Barilaro resigned from parliament. Brayford said the then-deputy premier requested the change by sending him a rare text message that asked for a cabinet minute to be prepared “ASAP” in September last year. Barilaro’s proposal went through to cabinet within about 10 days – whereas it usually takes weeks – and arrived a week before his resignation from parliament.

John Barilaro’s former chief of staff, Mark Connell (written statement only)
Connell claimed Barilaro told him in April 2019 that he would create a position in New York to ensure he had a job to go after he left politics. His statement from him said:
“I have [Barilaro] said, ‘I’ve just come from a meeting with Dom and Stuart regarding trade and we’re going to bring back the Agent General in London as well as a bunch of other postings around the world … He then stated, ‘This is it; this is the job for when I get the f— out of this place’. I responded to Mr Barilaro and stated, ‘but John, the Agent General role will be filled well before you retire from this place’.” Connell claimed Barilaro then told him: “I don’t want to go to London, f— that, I’m off to New York … I’ll get them to put one in New York, that’s where I’ m off too [sic].“
Barilaro has rejected the claims and called them “fictitious”.

Investment NSW boss Amy Brown (second appearance, August 3)
Brown said she feared controversy would follow John Barilaro’s appointment and said that Trade Minister Stuart Ayres did not keep himself at arm’s length from the process. She defended the withdrawal of an earlier offer made to bureaucrat Jenny West, saying it was related to West’s performance of her. In the second recruitment round, Brown said a hiring firm sent her a panel report that compared Barilaro and a top-ranked female candidate, Kimberley Cole. Brown said she believed the report was full of errors and sought to change the report and elevate Barilaro’s ranking of him.

Department secretary Amy Brown said she was nervous about the appointment of John Barilaro to the trade role given his history with the government.

Department secretary Amy Brown said she was nervous about the appointment of John Barilaro to the trade role given his history with the government.Credit:Kate Geraghty

Barilaro’s former chief of staff Siobhan Hamblin (August 5)
Hamblin said Barilaro never raised a personal interest in the trade roles but first asked her about the appointment process, and whether it could be changed, in June last year. She also said she urged the former deputy premier not to resign amid the COVID crisis last October, but he proceeded to step down days after then-Premier Gladys Berejiklian. She could not explain why he was seeking an urgent cabinet minute around changing the trade appointments.

Investment NSW managing director Kylie Bell (August 5)
Bell told Barilaro he got the job via text on May 23. She felt the recruitment firm held “a bit of unconscious bias” against him in the recruitment process and said he would have been able to “get things happening” in New York. While Bell received a glowing reference for the other candidate, Kimberley Cole, she said Cole did not have enough experience in the US market or in NSW and was not best-suited for the New York role.

Public Service Commissioner Kathrina It (August 5)
Lo said both herself and independent panel member Warwick Smith would not have endorsed the final panel selection report that endorsed John Barilaro if they knew the information they knew now. Lo said she was concerned by “the degree of ministerial involvement, including input into shortlisting and provision of an informal reference”, as well as the treatment of the third-ranked candidate. She said she felt she may have been used as political cover by the hiring firm or department secretary Amy Brown.

Public Sector Commissioner Kathrina Lo.

Public Sector Commissioner Kathrina Lo.Credit:Kate Geraghty

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